Let's put to rest the troll-induced rumors that influenza is just as bad or worse than COVID-19, shall we?

People who prefer to get their information from memes, politicians and self-serving pundits on Facebook make the comparison every time a media outlet or health official cites the latest death toll. But regardless of whether you take every possible precaution, or you're an anti-masker, the fact that both of these illnesses start with a virus is a non-starter.

First of all, the flu in its base form has been around a long time. Different strains pop up every year, though, which is why the medical community offers a different "cocktail" for the vaccine every year. But COVID-19 is a new virus, and no individual with a science background who has studied it would say the two are the same. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a new one, so humans haven't developed antibodies for it, like they would with a flu vaccine or general exposure to that virus.

Second, the mortality rate for the coronavirus is up to 10 times higher than for the flu. While the results of the flu season can't be known for some time, estimates by the CDC indicate that between 24,000 and 62,000 people will have died from Oct. 1, 2019, through April 4, 2020. COVID-19, on the other hand, has taken the lives of more than 127,000 in this country - and that's just since March.

There's no vaccine for COVID-19 - not yet, although scientists are working desperately to find one. The best advice they have now is for people to wear masks when in public; practice social distancing of at least 6 feet between groups that share the same domicile; wash and sanitize hands and surfaces religiously; and your hands away from your face. The CDC also recommends staying away from places like bars and crowded beaches, for the moment - especially for those in the vulnerable groups.

Unfortunately, many people refuse to take even the most rudimentary precautions. That, and the understandable drive to reopen the economy, explain why the numbers in many states are spiking. It has nothing to do with "more testing" - unless you assume that less testing will reveal fewer cases, and therefore fewer cases exist. That's like saying you can gorge yourself on fattening foods, and as long as you stay off the scales, you won't gain weight.

All of us have the freedom, and responsibility, to act in the manner we deem most suitable. But let's not spread falsehoods about the nature of this virus. It's not the flu.

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